You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

MPAA Urges Appeals Court to Protect Filmmakers’ Right to Embellish

The MPAA has waded into the dispute between screen legend Olivia de Havilland and FX Networks, arguing in an amicus brief filed Thursday that filmmakers must have the right to embellish true events.

De Havilland, 101, sued FX in June, objecting to her portrayal in the Ryan Murphy series “Feud.” De Havilland’s attorneys argued that the series portrayed her as a “petty gossip” and took strong exception to a scene in which De Havilland calls her sister, the actress Joan Fontaine, a “bitch.”

FX countered that its depiction is protected under the First Amendment and filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Judge Holly Kendig denied that motion, prompting FX to take its case to the state Court of Appeals.

The MPAA on Thursday joined with Netflix in urging the appellate court to overturn Kendig’s decision and throw out the suit. In the brief, the MPAA’s lawyers argued that they “cannot overstate the serious implications of the trial court’s ruling” for filmmakers who draw on real events for fictionalized works.

“Authors, writers, and directors cannot tell these types of stories if they are required to present every moment with 100 percent literal accuracy, without having any character utter a word that was not actually said, and without every event in the story taking as much time on screen as it did in real life,” they argue. “It would mark a radical departure from decades of case law if the mere use of standard storytelling techniques — indeed the basic tools of the creators’ artistry — were sufficient to support viable false light claims.”

In her suit, De Havilland notes that the “Feud” creators did not seek her out or obtain her consent. But the MPAA argues that requiring the consent of subjects of docudramas would give every public figure absolute veto power over how they were portrayed on screen.

“Motion pictures that criticize, analyze, or reimagine our heroes and leaders will be off limits, and both artistic freedom and public discourse will suffer accordingly,” they contend.

The brief includes a list of this year’s top awards contenders that are based on real events and that, the MPAA argues, would be threatened if De Havilland’s suit is allowed to proceed, including “The Post,” “I, Tonya,” “Dunkirk,” “The Disaster Artist,” “Darkest Hour,” “All the Money in the World,” and “Molly’s Game.”

“Screenwriters need the freedom to create fictional dialogue, imagined scenes, composite characters, and other dramatic elements without fear of unfounded liability,” the MPAA argues.

MPAA Amicus Brief by gmaddaus on Scribd

More Film

  • Halloween

    Movies Featured More Female Protagonists in 2018, But It's Not All Good News (Study)

    “Halloween,” “A Star is Born,” and “Crazy Rich Asians” made headlines for featuring strong roles for women, but even though the number of female film protagonists hit a high in 2018, the movie industry still offered its juiciest parts to men. At a time when Hollywood is under pressure to become more inclusive and is [...]

  • Colin Farrell Dumbo

    Colin Farrell To Star in Andrew Haigh's BBC Two Thriller 'The North Water'

    Colin Farrell is set to star in “The North Water,” the BBC Two thriller which will be directed by critically acclaimed filmmaker Andrew Haigh (“Lean on Pete”). Based on Ian McGuire’s novel, the four-part series is being adapted by Haigh and produced by See-Saw Films for BBC Two. Set in the U.K. and in the [...]

  • New Fox Appoints Wayne Borg to

    New Fox Appoints Wayne Borg to Los Angeles Studio Role

    Wayne Borg, who has headed the Fox Studios Australia operations in Sydney for the past four years, has been appointed president and general manager of studios at New Fox. He will relocate from Australia to Los Angeles. Fox Studios Australia, which is to remain part of 21st Century Fox and will become part of Disney [...]

  • Lisa Borders Time's Up

    Time's Up President Lisa Borders Resigns

    Lisa Borders has resigned as president of Time’s Up, she and the organization announced on Monday. Borders is resigning due to family issues, she said in a statement. Time’s Up COO Rebecca Goldman will now serve as interim CEO. “As Time’s Up continues to grow, I am proud of the work I have done to [...]

  • Keira Knightly as "Rachael Morgan" in

    Film Review: Keira Knightley in 'The Aftermath'

    Less widely seen (and acclaimed) than it deserved to be, James Kent’s debut feature “Testament of Youth” was one of the great recent love-in-wartime dramas, translating the intimate romance and sprawling human tragedy of Vera Brittain’s WWI memoir with a grace and heft worthy of its David Lean allusions. Four years on, it’s not hard [...]

  • Inside Amazon's New Feature Film Strategy

    Amazon's New Film Strategy: Straight-to-Service Titles and Starry Sundance Buys

    It was close to midnight when Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Salke got the text. The company had failed in its quest to acquire “Brittany Runs a Marathon,” a body image dramedy that captivated Salke when she saw it at Sundance. A sales agent on the project messaged her to say that a competitor offered a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content